In many ways, the career paths of Tom Everidge and Brad Kilby have been very similar. Both are Northern California natives who played their college ball in the Bay Area (Everidge played at Sonoma State, while Kilby was a Spartan with San Jose State). And both have had to prove themselves at each level, never having been given the fast-track through the Oakland A's system despite posting solid numbers year-after-year.
|Kilby has a 2.17 ERA for Sacramento this season.|
Everidge earned his first start with the A's in Boston against the Red Sox and his first hit was a memorable one – a two-out double off of the Monster in left-field off of All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon. That hit keyed a two-out, top-of-the-ninth inning rally by the A's and an eventual extra-inning win. For Everidge, the first hit was an unforgettable moment.
"It was amazing. I didn't have a hit yet and walking up there I was thinking that it would be a good time to get one. He just threw a fastball and I swung and I was like, ‘oh my God, I better run because it isn't that far out there,'" Everidge said.
The first-baseman appeared in 24 games with the A's in July and August, during which time he hit .224 with two homers and seven RBIs. His second homer came in front of friends and family at the Oakland Coliseum, when he crushed a C.C. Sabathia pitch deep into the left-field bleachers.
Everidge was sent back to Sacramento last week when the A's decided that they needed another middle infielder on their bench (Eric Patterson), but he is thankful for his opportunity with the A's this season and believes that his first taste of the big leagues will help him succeed the next time he is there.
"I think I learned a lot about what to expect and how the game works up there. I got to talk a lot to the veterans. I just got to learn and soak up as much as I could. I tried to figure out what I should do better," Everidge said.
"I think the confidence of knowing that you can play up there helps you a lot. It's baseball. It's the same game. Things are just better up there. You've got to raise your game up and you have to try to stay focused on what you have to do. If you aren't bringing it in that at-bat, they are going to get you out."
Kilby is hoping to experience what Everidge did with the A's sometime soon. The left-handed reliever is in his second year with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. The A's 29th round pick in 2005 was a candidate to be added to Oakland's 40-man roster last off-season after he posted a 3.47 ERA and he struck-out 66 in 70 innings in 2008. The A's chose to leave him off of the roster, however. He has responded with an even better campaign with Sacramento in 2009. In 62.1 innings, Kilby has a 2.17 ERA with the River Cats and 75 strike-outs. Opponents have hit only .177 off of him.
Kilby credits his improvements to some mechanical work with Sacramento pitching coach Rick Rodriguez and an increased sharpness with his stuff.
"I think my off-speed pitches have come around. My change-up and slider have been a lot better this year and my fastball velocity has been a lot better," Kilby said.
"Ricky Rod [River Cats' pitching coach Rick Rodriguez] made a small mechanical adjustment with me with my hands. I set them way down low at my waist and that has helped me repeat my delivery a lot easier this year."
Although Kilby hasn't had an opportunity to play in the big leagues during the regular season, he did spend some time with the A's during big league camp this spring. He appeared in only two games, but he was in the A's bullpen for a number of other spring games. Like Everidge, Kilby took the opportunity to learn as much as he could from his big league teammates.
"[Pitching in big league camp] is very important. It was a great opportunity this year," Kilby said.
"Just to be there was a lot of fun. Being able to hang out with the guys, I feel like I would know pretty much everyone up there [in Oakland] right now. I was able to be in the clubhouse and got a chance to talk to them. Everyone was really friendly. I think I would fit in nicely there."
Although Kilby is having a standout season with the River Cats, it would be unfair to say that the 2009 campaign has been a breakthrough year for the left-hander. In five minor league seasons, Kilby has never posted an ERA above 3.50 and he has averaged more than 10 strike-outs per nine innings. His career WHIP is 1.10. Kilby isn't a flame-thrower, however, and he has had to overcome the perception by many scouts that his success stems solely from a funky delivery that scouts assume will eventually be figured out at the higher levels.
Before the River Cats game on Saturday, one scout admitted that he had believed Kilby's success was not sustainable at the higher levels last season, but this year he has been convinced that the lefty can contribute in the major leagues. Unlike many lefties, Kilby has the advantage of being able to get out right-handers just as easily as left-handers, something Kilby attributes to the natural action on his fastball.
"I have a fastball that I can run away from [righties]. Then I can get right in on their hands. Usually that is my strength. I can pound them away, away and then bust them in late and I am able to get a lot of strike-outs that way," Kilby said.
Like nearly every player in Triple-A who has had a great season, both Everidge and Kilby are keeping an eye on September 1st, the day that major league teams can expand their rosters to 40 players. With the A's out of contention in the AL West, it is expected that Oakland will call up several players throughout the month, as the team tries to determine which young players will be part of the core for the 2010 A's squad. September 1st can be a distraction, but Everidge and Kilby are keeping their focus on the immediate task at hand – trying to get the Sacramento River Cats their third consecutive PCL title.
Although Everidge showed promise in his first stint with the A's, he isn't resting on his laurels and assuming that he is going to return to the club in September.
"I'm just going to wait and see. I just thank them for giving me the opportunity and obviously I want to go back there. I'll just keep busting my tail and hope to just be ready if I get that call," Everidge said.
Kilby isn't on the A's 40-man roster, but the team has open spots on that roster, giving him hope that he could get that long-awaited call sometime this month.
"It's definitely in the back of my mind. But anything I can do to help this team [Sacramento] win another PCL championship would be fine with me," Kilby said.
"If they call me up after [the PCL playoffs], that would be great, but if they called me up tonight, my bags are ready and I could pack in about two minutes. I'm ready to go if they need me."
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